We rushed around early Saturday morning to purchase the last item on our shopping list before the crowds flocked to Leeds City Centre, we then felt smug with shopping bag in hand as we made our way in to Leeds Art Gallery for a bit of respite before heading on to Leeds City Museum.
Leeds Art Gallery
I’m ashamed to say that despite growing up in Yorkshire, I had never looked around the gallery which is based on The Headrow, just a 10 minute walk from Leeds Train Station.
As soon as we entered the hustle and bustle of the City Centre was behind us and we spotted the stunning Tile Hall Cafe which is on the left as you enter.
I clocked it as the aim of finishing off a busy morning. The next striking feature of the entrance hall was the stunning stair case with a colourful wall.
Enter the light filled entrance hall and take in the bright and beautiful work of Lothar Götz.
The entrance hall is home to important works from the collection including Alexander Calder and Antony Gormley.
Götz’s stunning wall painting Xanadu links the lower and upper galleries, leading up to the light-filled space above. Both colourful and contemporary it is juxtaposed against the Victorian architecture of the gallery.
Ironically (after a busy morning shopping), the current exhibition is entitled Slow Painting as it includes works of art from artists “who take their time” and the gallery encourages visitors to do the same.
It was fascinating looking around the different themed galleries and I loved the break out Artspace where families can play, draw and create. It was a decent sized space catered for all ages to stop and get creative.
A world of art in the heart of the city.
Leeds Art Gallery presents a dynamic exhibition programme and holds a significant collection of modern and contemporary British art.
I then headed up the staircase to see the Upper Galleries. The most striking gallery was the Central Court which was commissioned as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International. You can walk under the structure in the light airy space or you can sit and look at it.
Unveiled during the restoration project of 2016, the Central Court forms a large light filled space in the upper galleries.
Ayse Erkmen’s Three of Four (2019) was commissioned as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International in response to the historical architecture of the gallery. This is the first time a work has been specifically created for the space, responding to its hidden history and architectural changes throughout the life of the building.
It’s a brilliant space to stop, think, ponder and be mindful.
After exploring the other galleries, we were then keen to head back down to try the Tiled Hall Cafe.
It felt as if we were in a movie setting with the stunning blue and green tiles adourning the walls with marble columns and even a grand piano. We opted for a quick coffee and drink and enjoyed basking in the atmosphere the large cafe creates as we sat on a comfortable leather sofa.
Once replenished, we made our way on to Leeds City Museum which is a real family-friendly treat.
Leeds City Museum
Six galleries and a programme of family friendly exhibitions in the heart of Leeds
Leeds City Museum is based at Millenium Square in Leeds so just a short 5 minute walk from Leeds Art Gallery.
Again, we hadn’t visited Leeds City Museum, which is also free to enter, before.
They have a range of events on from Etsy Craft Markets to regular art sessions… it’s a stunning versatile venue which has much more to it than I had realised.
We didn’t have long so first off we headed into the Voices of Asia exhibition. This is a rich colourful exhibition celebrating dance, music and culture from across Asia and Leeds’ connection to the continent.
On the same floor there is also The Collector’s Cabinet which is home to a huge Moa skeleton (one of the world’s largest birds).
Upstairs is The Leeds Story and then on the third floor is Ancient Worlds
Discover the fascinating history of Leeds including our surprising inventions, sporting accolades and incredible textile heritage.
From the first archaeological finds to changing displays reflecting people’s lives in the city today, Leeds is a city of stories. Find out how Leeds has shaped, and been shaped by, its landscape and people.
Find out how the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks lived their lives and paved the way for the world as we know it in the Ancient Worlds gallery.
Visit the final resting place of Nesyamun, the 3000 year old Leeds Mummy, and the only known mummy known to hail from the 20th Dynasty. Discover clues to the past in art and architecture, objects in the earth, ancient writing and burials.
Also on the third floor is a City and It’s Welcome…
Many people have come to Leeds to start a new life, including those escaping famine in Ireland in the 1800s, those seeking work opportunities, and today’s refugees arriving in our City of Sanctuary.
A City & its Welcome tells the stories and experiences of those who have made a home in Leeds over the past three centuries and how they have helped shape the city that we recognise today. Come on a journey with us to see the differences between their hopes and expectations and the realities of life in a new place, plus treasured objects brought from afar.
We then ventured to Life on Earth exhibition…
The story of how the natural world is more astonishing than you ever thought.
Life on Earth is home to some of the most remarkable specimens in Leeds’s collection of 800,000 animals, vegetables and minerals. From fearsome tigers to prehistoric beasts, rainbow-feathered birds and fascinating fossils, there’s so much to discover.
We could have spent a good hour in here or more as the open plan exhibition is a feast for the senses. There’s so much for the whole family to interact with from children’s dressing up to exploring fossils and animals. This alone is worth a visit and it is right next to the cafe if you need refreshments.
Cafe and play area at Leeds City Museum
The Corner Cafe at Leeds City Museum is lovely and light with windows overlooking Millennium Square. There is also a small play area which is perfect for little ones as well as space for buggies.
There’s a range of hot and cold food and drinks on offer as well as sweet treats.
Verdict: Leeds City Museum and Leeds Art Gallery
Both Leeds City Museum and Leeds Art Gallery warrant a day out to Leeds in their own right. We’d say Leeds Art Gallery is perfect for families with older children or for adults and Leeds City Museum is perfect for little ones. But they are both so different and we would recommend seeing both places in one day. They are right in the heart of the city centre too so can act as good places to have some respite. They’re free to enter and have a range of free crafts and family events.
For more information, go to: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk